Monday, March 19, 2018

The Trendies

The trend I have chosen to focus on is the increase in digital technology within the classroom, particularly on the 1-5 year timeline. 
The New Media Consortium (2017) report discusses a large number of trends, and one of the more interesting to me is the "Growing focus on measuring learning." They describe this trend as the 'exploration and evaluation of a wide variety of tools" and question whether the emphasis on the results gained monitoring students constantly actually leads to a reduction in achievement.
This is interesting to me as this has become one of my main focuses over the course of the mindlab. I actively try to use tools such as EdPuzzle and OneNote in the classroom and am currently invovled in an inquiry with one of my classes that is using devices exclusively in class and moving away from books all together. Their results will be highly interesting to me - and I have been using the 'immediate assessment' available in EdpPuzzle to gauge their understanding.
neuman (2016) discusses the potential negatives of placing the importance on data - praticularly in low-income environments, which is very relevant to my practice. She spends time discussing the negative effects of only guiding instruction based on data - the time taken away on individual, meaningful instruction. she argues that teachers need to move away from 'motivating' students with data alone, and  to be 'data informed' rather than 'data driven.'

In a more positive article about the importance of data based teaching, Sophie Edwards (2017) discusses the 'learning crisis' which the world bank believes is going unacknowledged by governments. They describe 'persistent gaps' between rich and poor students and emphasise the importance of removing these gaps - and to track how students are faring with solid data. I wonder how much of NCEA results are actually solid data. There are definitely students who leave high school with Level 2 and 3 NCEA that are far behind other students with the same qualification.

The Ministry of Education (2017) lists a range of tools that can help with data collection in the classroom. The website I link to focuses mostly on the importance of data collection in regards to teaching as inquiry, but there is a constant focus in schools on how students are faring. New tools are constantly being introduced, which allow teachers to drill down to see how students' credits and attendance link together. Our school has introduced a tool called ASSAY3 which allows an amazing amount of data visualisation - such as seeing how many of the students in each class passed the previous year.
As you can see above, I was able to see that 40 % of my class gained no credits in English the previous year, and a further 20% only passed 1 assessment. This brings up a potential problem with data-informed teaching - the ability to make negative assumptions about students. It would be easy to 'write this class off', and only focus on those who had passed before. On the other hand, the data helps motivate teachers to build these students' success and to realise that a 'traditional' programme of teaching may not work in this case. Data is a double-edged sword - but one that can lead to greatly improved outcomes if approzched correctly.

I will continue to use tools to guide my teaching but I believe the important thing in teaching is still relationships and will continue to try build these.

Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., Freeman, A., Hall Giesinger, C., and Ananthanarayanan, V. (2017). NMC Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Brazil, Megan. (2017)Building and Leading a School Culture That Values Data-Informed Dialogue to Improve Student Learning The International Educator,. Available at : 

Ministry of Education (2017) Collecting evidence through inquiry. Available at

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Greasers and the SOC

Social media is an ever present facet 

Due in large part to my fear of potential issues with social media in the classroom I haven't made use of it in class - this is also a consequence of our administrations decision to "block" all Social Media sites. I do believe this is a problem - the Education Council says that teachers need to 'model good Social Media" use but the fear of ethical missteps holds us back.
However, I do use Social Media a lot to guide my professional development. I follow a number of educators on Twitter, and make extensive use of Google+ as part of the mindlab programme. I also am a member of numerous education groups on Facebook which can prove invaluable in finding resources and discussing with other teachers. 

I can see the benefit in using Social media in the clasroom , as Seaman & Tinti-Kane(2013) report "Social technologies can provide new opportunities to engage learners and many educators are discovering impactful strategies for using them in face-to-face, blended and online classrooms." I believe it is important to let students access their work as easily as possible and sites like Facebook etc provie a shortcut to connectivity beyond the standard tools used in class.

However, there are many drawbacks to using social media. It is well known that Facebook can be extremely distracting - leading to students logging in to do their work, then getting distracted and doing nothing of educational value.
It also opens the door to bullying and issues of privacy. 
I think at this point in time, sites like facebook etc should remain as seperate domains from the teacher/student relationship.

Importantly though, Social media can serve as a great tool in building professional development. I have lost track of the number of resources I have shared and received thanks to social media group. The ability to communicate with teachers across New Zealand and the globe is invaluable - just the other day I interacted with an innovator in the field of English teaching insert tweet here

Melhuish (2013) describes the resource sharing I refer to above as potentially "low-level and not necessarily supportive of enhancing practice." He says this because teachers may just rely on resources and never develop them further. However in my experience there has been lots of collaboration - particularly in a shared google drive that was created to share resources for a film.
I do wonder if these groups provide only a surface level network as opposed to the value gained from face to face networking - but even a surface level network which spans the globe is a valuable one for development as teachers.


NZ Education Council. (n.d.). What is social media . Retrieved June 16, 2017 from
Education Council (2017). Guide to Teachers and Social media. Retrieved from:
Seaman, J., & Tinti-Kane, H. (2013). Social media for teaching and learning. Babson Survey Research Group. Retrieved from

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Reflecting on ethical missteps...

In my first few years of teaching, I have come to realise the importance of abiding by the code set out by the Education Council. Particularly as a male teacher, there is a great deal to be gained by getting to know the standards and rules set out in this document and to use it as a guide for behaviour in situations which may cross ethical lines.

For this weeks reflective activity, I was asked to identity a possible ethical dillema that I have faced. In this modern age, it is common for students and staff to coexist in the digital space. It is easy for students to find a teacher on social media such as facebook, and to friend request them. I decided to focus on what would happen if a student friend requested me, and at the same time began sending emails to my work account which stray into the realm of 'personal' communication rather than focusing on educational issues.

Ehrich et al (2011) provide a model which can be useful in guiding reactions to ethical incidents and I decided to use Ehrich's (2011) model to guide my analysis of the ethical dillema identified, and a possible outcome. After watching the Ted talk:
 I was able to guide my thinking more clearly - as on first glance the model is slightly confusing.
  1. My critical incident was the simultaneous act of a student befriending me on facebook, while also sending personal emails.
  2. I had to analyse this incident through firstly the lens of Professional ethics . What does the teacher's code of practice say? I also looked at it through the lens of public interest. What would the student's parents think? Others in the community? There is also the global context - one in which male teachers are vilified... I also looked at the Education Council's(2018) guide for Teachers and Social media. An interesting quote is "What one must consider when using social media in a professional setting is the reason why one would use it and how it should be used." I questioned whether having a 'friendship' on Social Media was really a good 'reason' to use it.  There is also the "teachers and social media" website available at: which has the very precise quote: If learners contact you by social media and ask for help or advice relating to sensitive personal issues, social media isn’t the right forum for providing support. Consider redirecting them to appropriate support structures, such as the Guidance Counsellor or guidance team in their school/centre. 
  3. On the individual level, I believe that students need to be valued as individuals and dislike the one-size fits all approach that dominates educational discourse. I have an informal attitude with many of my students, preferring the collegial approach to the behavioural management approach, and this reflects well in my results and classroom environment. However, I also would need to be aware that this hypothetical student may perceive my friendly tone to mean something more, and they could take accepting a friend request to mean something 'more' than a professional friendship. 
  4. I now needed to choose whether to a) accept the friend request, b)decline the friend request and say nothing more of it, c) to decline the friend request and report it to higher management or d) do nothing and hope that it would go away.
  5. Option a) could lead to a large kettle of fish - with possible ramifications for myself, the school and the student. This seems like the worst of the options as it could lead to the 'worst possible' scenario - one where the student/teacher relationship becomes blurred and bordering on unethical. Option b) is better but may leave the student feeling hurt and dismayed, which could have a negative result and lead to them being withdrawn from school. Option C) allows me to share this problem with someone else, possibly the school guidance councillor who would be able to discuss the problem with the student in conjunction with me. Of course there is always option D - to do nothing, but this would just be putting this off till a later date.

As part of the 'last step' I analysed my response through a lens of the code of standards. I found the most apt part of the code in section 2 :
The particularly important part is number 2: engaging in professional relationships. It is important that the boundary between student and teacher remains in place - and friendships on Social media have become a clearly defined 'line' in common practice. This helps me to choose Option C - as this way the wellbeing of the learner can also be protected.


Education Council. (2017). Our Code Our Standards.Retrieved from:

Education Council (2017). Guide to Teachers and Social media. Retrieved from:

Ehrich, L. C. , Kimber M., Millwater, J. & Cranston, N. (2011). Ethical dilemmas: a model to understand teacher practice, Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 17:2, 173-185, DOI: 10.1080/13540602.2011.539794

Netsafe (2017). Responding to online incidents. Retrieved from

Monday, December 4, 2017

Let's get together and inquire our hearts out

For this final  blog post, and as a feedforward into my Research assignment I have chosen to focus on two possible topics for my teaching inquiry:

1) Do the digital tools I have used actually improve student outcomes - particularly writing?

2) Does collaboration actually improve educational outcomes - particularly for boys?

These are both important issues to explore within my current practice. They are both particularly relevant to one community of practice that I exist within - the Otahuhu Community of  Learning. The Ministry of Education (2017) produced a set of achievement challenges for our community and one of the fascinating revelations in the data is how poorly boys perform - once they start year 9, 64 % of them are below the national average in writing.
When I consider the first topic, often using digital tools is seen as an 'easy way' to keep students occupied and on task. I have used a variety of tools this year - including edpuzzle , OneNote and google forms in my teaching. I would like to construct an inquiry that explores the effects of these tools and analyses whether they have proven effective.

The second topic is one I discussed with a member of my community of practice who I collaborate with often. We want to explore whether collaboration works to improve educational outcomes for these boys. As part of this I would like to explore some more explicit teaching of the Key Competencies so that students understand the why we teach collaboration instead of seeing it as another mundane task.

How will these topics contribute to learning within the (multiple) communities of practice that I work in?

Wenger et al. (2002), suggest that a community of practice  is a ‘group of individuals participating in communal activity, and experiencing/continuously creating their shared identity through engaging in and contributing to the practices of their communities.' 
 This means that my teaching inquiry will cross over many different communities of practice. The most immediate will be within the classes that I implement the research. I would hope that by dedicating my extra time and effort to these classes - particularly the focus on writing - there will be a beneficial outcome for these students. I know that next year I have a low ability and literacy class, and hope that some of the tools we have explored will help with this.

Secondly, there are a small group of teachers within my school who are also undertaking the mindlab course - one of whom shares one of my teaching as inquiry goals and we will be able to discuss our findings throughout the course of the inquiry. For this group, we will be having what Knox (2009) terms a shared 'domain' - in which we share common issues and an inquiry. I  believe this will become my focus 'community of practice' and that we will build a strong identity as we work through our teaching inquiry.

 Thirdly, as part of the Community of Learning, and as a member of the writing team, my inquiry could have ramifications across multiple schools depending on how successful the inquiry is.

I look forward to the next exciting stage of the mindlab course and am looking forward to strengthening my relationship within my community of practice.


Knox, B.(2009, December 4). Cultivating Communities of Practice: Making Them Grow.[video file]. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education. (2017).Otahuhu Community of Learning Achievement Challenges. Wellington, New Zealand: Author. Retrieved from

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Becoming an understudy.

"Changing the script"- looking at how students and teachers have changed in the 21st century.

For this week's reading we were asked to consider the future of learning in New Zealand, particularly focusing on the use of technology to bring about change.  The Ministry of Education (2012) has said that "current educational practices... are not sufficient to address and support learning needs for all students" and when I consider some of my students and their reaction to a typical learning model I can certainly agree!This statement is also backed up with data - students are falling behind in many areas, particularly literacy in my school. These students are often averse to reading and writing, and when it comes to 'thinking for themselves' they are often at a loss and will prefer to leave a page sitting blank. Oftentimes, these students are most engaged when they are copying something off the whiteboard or reciting and learning facts.

When considering SRI International's (2015) 21st century skills rubric, it is clear that at least 2 key skills are not being met - Knowledge Construction and self-regulation. In fact, all 6 21st century skills are often not taught in the current classroom environment, one where the teacher is seen as the font of all knowledge and the students mere receptacles for it.
As we all know, knowledge is widely available through the internet and it is not enough for us to be 'experts' in our field - we need to be teaching the important skills that will allow our students to thrive in the 21st century. Working in a low decile school, I think teaching these skills is even more important. Students often do not have access to technology at home and many are often wary of using a computer for anything other than youtube and games. Without learning to use technology as the powerful tool it is they will be at a massive disadvantage in tertiary education and the wider working environment.

I have made some progress into using technology in the classroom, focusing on the use of OneNote and Powerpoint to build collaboration. At this point I have only used it with students for short units of work but plan next year to have an extensive set of lessons on OneNote that use a variety of resources from the internet and (hopefully) build research skills. By doing so I hope to 'flip the script' and serve as more of a 'facilitator' than the usual knowledge distributor. This decision was made thanks to my time at the mindlab which served to inspire me to think 'outside the box' and provided me with a lot of great resources. These resources will (hopefully) help me in my journey away from being the "narrative subject" that Friere describes.

 I am wary that computers can become a massive distraction for students and hope to get support from upper management to install a monitoring tool. I'm excited for the future and hope that others in my department will soon join me in moving towards a technologically vibrant classroom. 

Reference list:

Ministry of Education.(2012). Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching: A New Zealand perspective. Retrieved from

Paulo Freire on Education that Liberates  |  Chapter 2: Life in Schools  |  New Learning  |  New Retrieved 28 November 2017, from

SRI International (2015). 21 CLD Learning Activity Rubrics. [ebook] Microsoft Partners in Learning. Available at: [Accessed 13 Aug. 2017].

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Activity 1: My reflective practice

Kia Ora everyone, welcome to my blog for the mindlab.

When asked to reflect on my reflective practice, I initially thought to myself - do I even have a reflective practice? It is easy to get caught up in the constant planning, marking, extracurricular activities and struggle to document everything that it seems like there is no time for reflection. However, I realised after reading Finlay's (2009) article that all of the above form a part of reflective practice - particularly what Zeichner and Liston define "review and repair" - the first two steps of proper reflective practice.

As part of my registration process as a beginning teacher, I often reach into the higher echelons of reflective practice. I am constantly reviewing the work I have done to see where it meets the standards of the teaching profession and wondering how I can improve the results in my classes. 

At this early stage in my teaching career everything is 'new' - and sometimes things I try fail miserably, despite all my best intentions. I have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater and not go back to trying these innovations again. However, some retheorizing and reformulating could prove the key to improving my practice. An example of this is group work with some of my behaviourally challenged classes. Often times group work devolves into a mess of paper being thrown and cacophonous noise, with very little learning going on. 

However, with proper reflection, I have been able to change this outcome - particularly through the use of digital tools - an important part of the SRI international (2015) 21st-century skills. 

Viewing my reflective practice through Gibb's model (cited in Finlay, 2009) I realise I often only got to "evaluation" and didn't continue.

As I evolved and honed my teaching practice, I went back to my initial attempts and analysed what went wrong - and looked at what else I could have done. I realised that students were often failing to understand the instructions given AND not seeing 'the point'. I resolved to have instructions easy to see and understand and to discuss the importance of collaboration as a 21st-century skill. Making this group work a diagnostic 'assessment' added weight to the importance of it and the students took to it with vigour.

The similarities between this model and the Ministry of Education's (2009) teaching as inquiry model are easy to see and helped me realise that an inquiry doesn't have to be driven from above - I can do a mini-inquiry every lesson. Our school has an emphasis on teacher inquiry but this can often be seen as a 'box ticking' exercise, rather than the important, central aspect of being a dynamic teacher it is. I hope to begin sharing my reflective practice with others in my learning community and using it to feed-forward into my teaching.

 I hope to build on my reflective practice throughout the next 16 weeks and look forward to reporting back to you all.

Reference list:
Finlay, L. (2009). Reflecting on reflective practice. PBPL. Retrieved from…
SRI International (2015). 21 CLD Learning Activity Rubrics. [ebook] Microsoft Partners in Learning. Available at: [Accessed 13 Aug. 2017].